How Nitrous Oxide works
If you’ve ever had any dental work done, especially as a child, you’re probably familiar with nitrous oxide. On its own, the gas can be fatal. When mixed with oxygen (typically at a ratio of 30% nitrous oxide and 70% oxygen) it becomes N2O-O2, more commonly known as laughing gas.
How does nitrous oxide work?
Nitrous oxide is administered via a small facemask that covers the nose. Sometimes the mask is scented (typically for children) to give the otherwise undetectable gas a pleasant odor. The easiest way to describe the effects of the gas is that it gives the patient a “happy drunk” feeling. After breathing in the gas for around five minutes, you experience a euphoric feeling throughout the body. It can also make you feel light-headed, and make your limbs feel weighed down, but not in an unpleasant way. People often get the giggles, hence the “laughing gas” moniker.
After light-headedness, depending on how much gas is administered, the patient will descend through the following levels of sedation:
- Tingling or vibrating sensations in the limbs
- Euphoria or floating (the patient’s hearing may dissolve into distant throbbing)
- Sleepiness and difficulty speaking
If you begin to feel nauseous, you’ve been over-sedated. If at any point do you feel unpleasant sensations, tell your dentist. They can adjust to N2O-O2 dosage and make you feel better, or even remove the mask to dispel some of the effects.
Uses of nitrous oxide:
It is primarily used for partial sedation, but can double as an anaesthetic, as N2O deadens virtually all sensation, including pain! In fact, it’s so effective at minimizing pain that it is often used instead of gumline injected anaesthetics. It also inhibits some emotional response, which is why it can be used to calm down people (and children) who are incredibly afraid at the dentist.
It works quickly, reaching your brain in under thirty seconds. Within five minutes, you’ll be optimally sedated. It is easy to adjust the dosage, so if a patient is somewhat resistant to the effects, or is feeling badly, necessary changes can be made quickly in order to minimize discomfort.
Another reason it’s so popular for dental procedures is there are no aftereffects. Once the gas is turned off, all effects are removed from the body in a matter of minutes. You can even drive after laughing gas!
If you’re in need of any dental work, come see Dr. Chauvin!